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Current Affairs 25 January 2022 | Legacy IAS

CONTENTS

  1. The challenge of antimicrobial resistance
  2. Sundarbans is cyclone capital of India: IMD report
  3. K-shaped Economic recovery
  4. Marital Rape
  5. Non-Fungible Token (NFT)

The challenge of antimicrobial resistance

Context:

The recently published GRAM report talks about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where antibiotics become ineffective because pathogens become resistant to them.

  • According to the report, as many as 4.95 million deaths may be associated with bacterial AMR in 2019.
Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?
  2. Concerns regarding Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  3. Findings from GRAM report
  4. Way forward

What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites to remain unaffected or survive antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials.
  • AMR occurs when microorganisms exposed to antimicrobial drugs develop antimicrobial resistance resulting in standard treatments becoming ineffective leading to persistence of infections and spreading of infections.
  • Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.
  • The misuse of antimicrobials in medicine and inappropriate use in agriculture is one of the major causes of spread of Antimicrobial Resistance.
  • Contamination around pharmaceutical manufacturing sites where untreated waste releases large amounts of active antimicrobials into the environment also leads to spread of AMR.
Basis of Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Some bacteria due to the presence of resistance genes are intrinsically resistant and therefore survive on being exposed to antibiotics.
  • Bacteria can also acquire resistance by sharing and transferring resistance genes present in the rest of the population, or by genetic mutations that help the bacteria survive antibiotic exposure.

Concerns regarding Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

  • Medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very risky due to AMR.
  • AMR increases the cost of healthcare with lengthier stays in hospitals, additional tests and use of more expensive drugs.
  • No new classes of antibiotics have made it to the market in the last three decades, largely on account of inadequate incentives for their development and production.
  • Without urgent action, we are heading towards a future without antibiotics and with bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment and when common infections and minor injuries could once again kill (referred to as antibiotic apocalypse).
  • It is putting the gains of the Millennium Development Goals at risk and endangers achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Concerns regarding AMR in India
  • India, with its combination of large population, rising incomes that facilitate purchase of antibiotics, high burden of infectious diseases and easy over-the-counter access to antibiotics, is an important locus for the generation of resistance genes.
  • The multi-drug resistance determinant, New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1), emerged from this region to spread globally – Africa, Europe and other parts of Asia have also been affected by multi-drug resistant typhoid originating from South Asia.
  • In India, over 56,000 newborn deaths each year due to sepsis are caused by organisms that are resistant to first line antibiotics.

Findings from GRAM report

  • Its headline finding is that as many as 4.95 million deaths may be associated with bacterial AMR in 2019. Estimates included in the paper show that AMR is a leading cause of death globally, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria.
  • In South Asia, over 3,89,000 people died as a direct result of AMR in 2019.
  • The death rate was the highest in Western sub-Saharan Africa, at 27.3 deaths per 1,00,000 and lowest in Australasia, at 6.5 deaths per 1,00,000.
  • Lower respiratory tract infections accounted for more than 1.5 million deaths associated with resistance in 2019, making it the most common infectious syndrome.
  • The six leading pathogens for deaths associated with resistance were Escherichia coli, followed by Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • They were responsible for 3.57 million deaths associated with AMR in 2019.
  • One pathogen–drug combination, meticillin-resistant S aureus, caused more than 1,00,000 deaths attributable to AMR in 2019, while six more each caused 50,000 -100,000 deaths.
Implications of the study
  • Common infections such as lower respiratory tract infections, bloodstream infections, and intra-abdominal infections are now killing hundreds of thousands of people every year because bacteria have become resistant to treatment. This includes historically treatable illnesses, such as pneumonia, hospital-acquired infections, and foodborne ailments.
  • Everyone is at risk from AMR, but the data show that young children are particularly affected.
  • In 2019, one in five global deaths attributable to AMR occurred in children under the age of five —often from previously treatable infections.
  • AMR is threatening the ability of hospitals to keep patients safe from infections and undermining the ability of doctors to carry out essential medical practice safely, including surgery, childbirth and cancer treatment since infection is a risk following these procedures.
  • Out of the seven deadliest drug-resistant bacteria, vaccines are only available for two (Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis).
  • Whilst all seven of the leading bacteria have been identified as ‘priority pathogens’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), only two have been a focus of major global health intervention programmes —S. pneumoniae (primarily through pneumococcal vaccination) and M. tuberculosis.

Way forward

  •  The use of antibiotics unrelated to treating human disease, such as in food and animal production, must be “optimised”.
  • Greater action need to be taken to monitor and control infections, globally, nationally and within individual hospitals.
  • Access to vaccines, clean water and sanitation ought to be expanded.
  • And finally should be “more thoughtful” about our use of antimicrobial treatments —expanding access to lifesaving antibiotics where needed, minimising use where they are not necessary to improve human health and acting according to WHO’s recommendations on the same.
  • Increasing funding for developing new antimicrobials and targeting priority pathogens such as K. pneumoniae and E. Coli and ensuring that they are affordable and accessible to most of the world.

-Source: The Hindu


Sundarbans is cyclone capital of India: IMD report

Context:

According to the analysis by India Meteorological Department (IMD) Pune, West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, within which the larger share of the Sundarbans is located, is impacted by cyclones the most frequently among Indian districts.

  • Around 70% cyclones in the area from 1961-2020 were severe.
Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About Sunderbans
  2. Flora and Fauna of the Sunderbans
  3. Risks faced by the Sunderbans
  4. About Cyclone
  5. Why Bay of Bengal creates significantly more cyclones?
  6. Why are there lesser cyclones in the Arabian Sea?
  7. Increasing Cyclones in Arabian Sea

About Sunderbans

  • Sunderbans, formerly Sunderbunds, is a vast tract of forest and saltwater swamp forming the lower part of the Ganga (Padma)-Brahmaputra River delta in southeastern West Bengal state, northeastern India, and southern Bangladesh.
  • The tract extends approximately more than 250 kms west-east along the Bay of Bengal from the Hugli River estuary in India to the western segment of the Meghna River estuary in Bangladesh.
  • A network of estuaries, tidal rivers, and creeks intersected by numerous channels, it encloses flat, densely forested, marshy islands.
  • Three-fifths of the Sunderbans area is in Bangladesh, out of the approximate 10 thousand square kilometers of area it covers.
  • Much of the area has long had the status of a forest reserve, but conservation efforts in India were stepped up with the creation of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in 1973.
  • Sunderbans National Park, established in 1984, constitutes a core region within the tiger reserve; it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

Flora and Fauna of the Sunderbans

  • The forestland transitions into a low-lying mangrove swamp approaching the coast, which itself consists of sand dunes and mud flats.
  • Mangrove forests constitute about two-fifths of the Sunderbans region’s overall surface area, with water covering roughly half of that area.
  • Mangrove forests perform multiple ecological functions such as production of woody trees, provision of habitat, food and spawning grounds for fin-fish and shellfish, provision of habitat for birds and other valuable fauna; protection of coastlines and accretion of sediment to form new land.
  • Notably, it is one of the last preserves of Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), which are found in relative abundance there. The Sunderbans Delta is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers. s
  • Other mammals include spotted deer, wild boars, otters, wildcats, and Ganges river dolphins (Platanista gangetica), but several species that once inhabited the region—including Javan rhinoceroses, guar, water buffalo, and spotted deer—are now believed to be extinct there.
  • Several dozen reptile and amphibian species are found in the Sunderbans, notably crocodiles, Indian pythons, cobras, and marine turtles.
  • The region is home to more than 250 bird species—both seasonal migrants and permanent residents—including hornbills, storks and other waders, kingfishers, white ibis, and raptors such as sea eagles.

Risks faced by the Sunderbans

  • The landscape is constantly being transformed by the erosional forces of the sea and wind along the coast and by the enormous loads of silt and other sediments that are deposited along the myriad estuaries.
  • Human activity has also altered the landscape, notably through forest removal, which accelerates erosion.
  • In addition, because considerable amounts of river water have been diverted upstream for irrigation and other uses, salinity in the mangrove swamps has moved farther inland, especially in the Indian sector of the territory.
  • During each monsoon season almost all the Bengal Delta is submerged, much of it for half a year. The shore currents vary greatly along with the monsoon and they are also affected by cyclonic action. Erosion and accretion through these forces maintains varying levels of physiographic change.
  • In a study conducted in 2012, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) found out that the Sunderban coast was retreating up to 200 metres (660 ft) in a year.
  • Agricultural activities had destroyed more than 40 thousand acres of mangroves from 1975 to 2010. Shrimp cultivation had destroyed more than 18 thousand acres during that time.
  • The mangrove vegetation itself provides a remarkable stability to the entire system, and loss of the mangrove forest will result in the loss of the protective biological shield against cyclones and tsunamis.

About Cyclone:

  • Cyclones are rapid inward air circulation around a low-pressure area. The air circulates in an anticlockwise direction in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern hemisphere.
  • Cyclones are usually accompanied by violent storms and bad weather.

There are two types of cyclones:

  • Tropical cyclones
  • Extra Tropical cyclones 
Tropical Cyclones
  • Tropical cyclones are violent storms that originate over oceans in tropical areas and move over to the coastal areas bringing about large scale destruction caused by violent winds, very heavy rainfall and storm surges.
  • Tropical Cyclones are one of the most devastating natural calamities in the world.
  • Tropical cyclones originate and intensify over warm tropical oceans.
 
The conditions favourable for the formation and intensification of tropical storms are:
  • Large sea surface with temperature higher than 27° C.
  • Presence of the Coriolis force.
  • Small variations in the vertical wind speed.
  • A pre-existing weak low- pressure area or low-level-cyclonic circulation.
  • Upper divergence above the sea level system.
 
 
Extratropical Cyclone
  • Extratropical cyclones are referred to as mid-latitude depressions, temperate cyclones, frontal depressions and wave cyclones.
  • These are active above the mid-latitudinal region between 35° and 65° latitude in both the hemispheres. 
  • The direction of movement is from west to east and more pronounced in the winter seasons. It is in these latitude zones the polar and tropical air masses meet and form fronts.

Why Bay of Bengal creates significantly more cyclones?

  • Apart from being a warm pool region, the Bay of Bengal is slightly more landlocked with South East Asian countries surrounding it, compared to the Arabian Sea, which is more expansive and this also leads to an increase in salinity of the seawater.
  • The Bay of Bengal is fed by a constant source of freshwater in the form of giant rivers like the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. The river water that empties into the Bay of Bengal warms up at the surface and rises up as moisture. This makes it difficult for the warm layers of water to mix properly with the cooler layers of water below, keeping the surface always warm and ready to feed any potential cyclone over it.
  • Furthermore, because of the shape of the land around the Bay of Bengal, the winds are slower and weaker over the ocean, ready to spin.
  • According to experts, the Bay of Bengal also gets many remnants of the typhoons in the Pacific Ocean. They come as a low-pressure area into the Bay of Bengal and grow into cyclones due to ideal conditions.

Why are there lesser cyclones in the Arabian Sea?

  • The northern, central and western parts of the Arabian Sea have a much cooler temperature. The mountains in east Africa direct winds towards the Arabian Peninsula, dissipating heat much more efficiently throughout the Arabian Sea.
  • As a result, this region is not favourable to feed potential cyclones and about half the cyclones that move into this area typically lose energy and dissipate.

Increasing Cyclones in Arabian Sea

  • For the past 150-200 years, the Bay of Bengal has given birth to four times more cyclones than the Arabian Sea. But this may soon change, thanks to global warming.
  • A study by The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology has shown that both the frequency and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea are on the rise. The experts believe the key reason is a rise in the ocean temperature.
  • Traditionally, the Arabian Sea is a lot cooler than the Bay of Bengal. But now the Arabian Sea is also becoming a warm pool region because of the additional heat supplied by global warming.

-Source: Down to Earth


K-shaped Economic recovery

Context:

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said that the government needed to do more to prevent a K-shaped recovery of the economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is a K-shaped recovery?
  2. What are the macro implications of a K-shaped recovery?
  3. Economic Recovery
  4. Types of Shape of Economic Recovery

What is a K-shaped recovery?

  • A K-shaped recovery happens when different sections of an economy recover at starkly different rates.
  • A K-shaped recovery leads to changes in the structure of the economy or the broader society as economic outcomes and relations are fundamentally changed before and after the recession.
  • This type of recovery is called K-shaped because the path of different parts of the economy when charted together may diverge, resembling the two arms of the Roman letter “K.”

What are the macro implications of a K-shaped recovery?

  • With the top 10 per cent of India’s households responsible for 25-30 per cent of total consumption, one could argue consumption would get a boost as this pent-up demand expresses itself.
  • Upper-income households have benefitted from higher savings for two quarters.
  • To the extent that COVID has triggered an effective income transfer from the poor to the rich, this will be demand-impeding because the poor have a higher marginal propensity to consume (i.e., they tend to spend, instead of saving) a much higher proportion of their income.
  • If COVID-19 reduces competition or increases the inequality of incomes and opportunities, it could impinge on trend growth in developing economies by hurting productivity and tightening political economy constraints.

Economic Recovery

  • Economic Recovery is the business cycle stage following a recession that is characterized by a sustained period of improving business activity.
  • Normally, during an economic recovery, GDP grows, incomes rise, and unemployment falls and as the economy rebounds.
  • Economic recovery can take many forms, which is depicted using alphabetic notations. For example, a Z-shaped recovery, V-shaped recovery, U-shaped recovery, elongated U-shaped recovery, W-shaped recovery, L-shaped recovery and K-shaped recovery.

Types of Shape of Economic Recovery

Z-shaped recovery: 

  • The Z-shaped recovery is the most-optimistic scenario in which the economy quickly rises like a phoenix after a crash.
  • It more than makes up for lost ground (think revenge-buying after the lockdowns are lifted) before settling back to the normal trend-line, thus forming a Z-shaped chart.
  • In this economic disruption lasts for a small period
  • In this more than people’s incomes, it is their ability to spend is restricted.

V-shaped recovery

  • V-shaped recovery is a type of economic recession and recovery that resembles a “V” shape in charting.
  • Specifically, a V-shaped recovery represents the shape of a chart of economic measures economists create when examining recessions and recoveries.
  • A V-shaped recovery involves a sharp rise back to a previous peak after a sharp decline in these metrics.
  • It is the next-best scenario after Z-shaped recovery in which the economy quickly recoups lost ground and gets back to the normal growth trend-line.
  • In this, incomes and jobs are not permanently lost, and the economic growth recovers sharply and returns to the path it was following before the disruption.

U-shaped recovery: 

  • A U-shaped recovery describes a type of economic recession and recovery that charts a U shape, established when certain metrics, such as employment, GDP, and industrial output sharply decline and then remain depressed typically over a period of 12 to 24 months before they bounce back again.
  • In this case several jobs are lost and people fall upon their savings.

W-shaped recovery: 

  • A W-shaped recovery is when an economy passes through a recession into recovery and then immediately turns down into another recession.
  • W-shaped recessions can be particularly painful because the brief recovery that occurs can trick investors into getting back in too early.

L-shaped recovery: 

  • An L-shaped recovery is when, after a steep recession, the economy experiences a slow rate of recovery, which resembles the shape of the letter “L” when charted as a line graph.
  • L-shaped recoveries are characterized by persistently high unemployment, a slow return of business investment activity, and a sluggish rate of growth in economic output, and are associated with some of the worst economic episodes through history.

-Source: The Hindu


Marital Rape

Context:

The Centre told the Delhi High Court that the issue of criminalisation of marital rape involves “family issues” and the dignity of a woman and cannot be looked at from a “microscopic angle”.

  • Solicitor-General, appearing for the Centre, urged the High Court to allow a “reasonable time” to place the position of the government after consultation with the stakeholders.
Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Women, Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Important Judgements and Committees)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About Marital Rape
  2. Status of Marital Rape in India
  3. Criticism of India’s Legal regime on Marital Rape
  4. On courts differing in views on marital rape

About Marital Rape

  • According to Justice Verma committee recommendations,  The IPC differentiates between rape within marriage and outside marriage.  Under the IPC sexual intercourse without consent is prohibited.  However, an exception to the offence of rape exists in relation to un-consented sexual intercourse by a husband upon a wife. 
  • The Committee recommended that the exception to marital rape should be removed.  Marriage should not be considered as an irrevocable consent to sexual acts.
  • Therefore, with regard to an inquiry about whether the complainant consented to the sexual activity, the relationship between the victim and the accused should not be relevant. 

Status of Marital Rape in India

  • The definition of rape codified in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) includes all forms of sexual assault involving non-consensual intercourse with a woman.
  • Non-Criminalization of marital rape in India emanates from Exception 2 to Section 375.
  • However, Exception 2 to Section 375 exempts unwilling sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife over fifteen years of age from Section 375’s definition of “rape” and thus immunizes such acts from prosecution.
  • As per current law, a wife is presumed to deliver perpetual consent to have sex with her husband after entering into marital relations.
  • The concept of marital rape in India is the epitome of what we call an “implied consent”. Marriage between a man and a woman here implies that both have consented to sexual intercourse and it cannot be otherwise.

Criticism of India’s Legal regime on Marital Rape

  • Marital rape is criminalized in more than 100 countries but, unfortunately, India is one of the only 36 countries where marital rape is still not criminalized.
  • The Supreme Court has included sanctity of women, and freedom to make choices related to sexual activity under the ambit of Article 21. Therefore, this exception clause is violative of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Rape laws in our country continue with the patriarchal outlook of considering women to be the property of men post marriage, with no autonomy or agency over their bodies. They deny married women equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
  • A married woman has the same right to control her own body as does an unmarried woman. Unfortunately, this principle is not upheld in Indian rape laws.
  • Our penal laws, handed down from the British, have by and large remained untouched even after 73 years of independence. But English laws have been amended and marital rape was criminalised way back in 1991. No Indian government has, however, so far shown an active interest in remedying this problem.

On courts differing in views on marital rape

  • Kerala High Court backed marital rape as a valid ground for divorce.
  • A court in Maharashtra gave anticipatory bail to a man while concluding that forcible sex with his wife was not an “illegal thing” though she said it left her paralysed.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court highlighted that legislative immunity given to marital rape stemmed from the “outdated notion that a wife is no more than a subservient chattel of her husband”.
  • Gujarat High Court has held that “a law that does not give married and unmarried women equal protection creates conditions that lead to the marital rape”.
  • In the Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration case, the SC backed a “woman’s right to refuse participation in sexual activity or alternatively the insistence on use of contraceptive methods”. The court has held that “rape is not only a crime against the person of a woman, it is a crime against the entire society”.

-Source: The Hindu


Non-Fungible Token (NFT)

Context:

A French luxury fashion brand is suing American digital artist who created a series of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), a rapidly growing part of the cryptoworld.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the article:
  1. What Is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT)?
  2. Are non-fungible tokens safe?
  3. What are the other reasons for which NFTs are in high demand?

What Is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT)?

  • Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other.
  • Unlike cryptocurrencies, they cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency.
  • This differs from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and, therefore, can be used as a medium for commercial transactions.
  • For example, one Bitcoin is always equal in value to another Bitcoin. Similarly, a single unit of Ether is always equal to another unit. This fungibility characteristic makes cryptocurrencies suitable for use as a secure medium of transaction in the digital economy.
  • NFTs shift the crypto paradigm by making each token unique and irreplaceable, thereby making it impossible for one non-fungible token to be equal to another.
  • NFTs are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated.
  • NFTs can be used to represent real-world items like artwork and real-estate.
  • “Tokenizing” these real-world tangible assets allows them to be bought, sold, and traded more efficiently while reducing the probability of fraud.
  • NFTs can also be used to represent individuals’ identities, property rights, and more.

Are non-fungible tokens safe?

  • Non-fungible tokens, which use blockchain technology just like cryptocurrency, are generally secure.
  • The distributed nature of blockchains makes NFTs difficult, although not impossible, to hack.
  • One security risk for NFTs is that you could lose access to your non-fungible token if the platform hosting the NFT goes out of business.

What are the other reasons for which NFTs are in high demand?

  • One of the other attractions is that NFTs are a part of a new kind of financial system called decentralised finance (DeFi), which does away with the involvement of institutions such as banks.
  • For this reason, decentralised finance is seen as a more democratic financial system because it makes access to capital easier for lay people by essentially eliminating the role of banks and other associated institutions.

-Source: The Hindu


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